Many ask "Just who is Charles N. Vilas and what did he do for the Town of Alstead"? Charles N. Vilas was a hotel proprietor & philanthropist. He was born in Alstead on Nov 12, 1852. Following public school education he was employed at Bay State House, Worcester Ma, than in 1872 became associated with his Uncle Hiram Hitchcock, a proprietor of the Fifth Ave Hotel, New York, one of the most famous hostelries in the US. He began as a clerk, holding many various positions of importance. When his Uncle retired he purchased a half interest along with a nephew of his Uncle's partner. These two nephews of the original owners continued a very successful Hotel until it was raised in 1908. For many years Charles Vilas maintained a summer home on River Street, until purchasing a 300 acre farm in Alstead and he built a handsome home know as the Vilas Estate and created and developed "Vilas Pool" on this estate. This became a free recreation Park which he opened up to the public in 1926. The Park included a large swimming area, boating including Swan Boats, a large dancing pavilion, picnic areas, playground equipment and a beautiful stone tower with a carillon of 12 bells, said to be the 2nd largest in New England. He was a man of calm, placid and even tempered disposition. Creative & noted for his hospitality. He married twice, first, 1879 to Elizabeth Harrington of NY, who died in 1889, leaving 3 children who predeceased him. Second marriage was in 1918 to Jesie Ford of Pasadena Calf. Charles Vilas died at home in Alstead in 1931. His wife eventually returned to California and died on Valentine's Day Feb 14, 1959.
Vilas Pool enjoyed by hundreds annually became town property along with a sustaining fund of $75,000 in his will following his death. Under his Will also, he gave the town Vilas High School, a $175,00 building, plus a trust fund of $125,000 to help support it, dedicated to the town in Jan 1935. 1926 he gave the steeple of the Universalist in the center of town a town clock. He gave the metal entrance gates to Maple Side Cemetery along with a $1,000 trust fund for the care of Vilas lots, Maple Side & Alstead Center cemeteries. The field known as Millot Green he gave to the town as well as he purchased the ruins of the horrific fire in 1925 which destroyed the New England Telephone office, 2 stores & a garage. He enlarged the parking space, adding a flag pole and a Memorial area. Also a trust fund to each of the town's four churches and a $20,000 Trust fund for a bed at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, for Alstead people, and two trust funds, the income therefrom to be used for general purposes for which taxes are used, amounting in total to a half million dollars. His philanthropies extended beyond Alstead. He gave $120,000 to Mary Hitchcock Hospital named for his Aunt Mary Hitchcock of Drewsville, NH. He also gave $70,000 for a bridge between Walpole and BF Vt., which after his death was named the Vilas Memorial Bridge. How fortunate the town of Alstead was that Charles N. Vilas lived here and continued to have a strong love for this Community!